Obesity among young people is a growing problem in the United States — and so is malnutrition, according to two new studies that look at how children eat, and how they don’t.
In 30 states, nearly one out of every three children is obese or overweight, according to a study released July 1 by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study finds similar concerns and rates for U.S. adults.
On the same day, another report was made public with a different set of numbers — in 13 states, one out of every five children under the age of five go hungry.
That report, released by the nonprofit Feeding America, documents the impact of hunger not just on the child, but on the whole nation.
U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that 12.4 million children in the U.S. are “food insecure” — defined as not being able to get enough food to maintain a healthy, active life.
Children who are food insecure grow up to become adults with health problems with fewer economic alternatives, the study finds.
According to globalissues.com, five million children die each year because of hunger and malnutrition — and some of those children may have been living in the United States.
Yet malnutrition isn’t limited to children who don’t get enough to eat.
A nutritional biochemist writing in The Baltimore Sun notes that a physically inactive, obese teenager, existing on a diet of junk food, is missing some of the same necessary nutrients as his emaciated counterpart in Nigeria.
As for solutions: An editorial in Pennsylvania’s Beaver County Times calls for “eating less and exercising more.”
In Florida, a new law has passed mandating physical education classes for middle school students, beginning this year, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel. High school kids, however, only have to take the equivalent of two semesters of physical education during the four years they are in high school.
And those who choose to do so can fulfill at least part of their phys-ed requirement with an online class.
Two other studies paint a picture of decreasing social tolerance to obesity.
A Yale University study found that although obesity is on the rise, those who are not overweight are displaying deepened bias against people who are.
This can start as early as kindergarten, according to researchers at the University of Missouri, who also found that obese children face more emotional problems than peers who are not.
Yet the very idea of what qualifies as obesity in the United States may be off the mark.
As reported by NPR’s Weekend Edition, the Body Mass Index, a 200-year-old formula for measuring weight and health, has as many as ten intrinsic, unscientific flaws that undermine its validity.
“Obese and Malnourished”
The Baltimore Sun, July 5,2009
“2009 Fat Report in the United States: Which States have the biggest weight problems”
Best Syndication News, July 2, 2009
“New Report focuses on economic toll of child hunger”
PR Newswire, July 1, 2009
“Bias against obese people increasing, study says”
Canwest News Service, May 17, 2009
“Overweight girls more lonely, anxious”
Reuters Life, July 6, 2009
“New law requires P.E. in middle school to fight obesity”
South Florida Sun Sentinel, June 28, 2009
“Shape up: Americans must get serious about reducing childhood, adult obesity”
Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Times, July 5,2009
“Top 10 Reasons Why The BMI Is Bogus”
NPR.org, July 4, 2009